How do I Perform Qigong Breathing?

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  • Written By: A.E. Freeman
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2020
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Qigong is a method of health care that dates back to ancient China. Qigong is a compound word consisting of the Mandarin word "qi," pronounced "chi," meaning energy or life force, and the Mandarin word "gong," meaning skill. Practitioners apply Qigong breathing to their daily lives. The practice helps you focus and feel energized. You perform Qigong breathing by taking long, deep breaths, pulling in your abdomen with each inhalation and filling your lungs entirely. You then pause before slowly exhaling.

One Qigong breathing technique is known as "Tortoise Breathing." Most beginners find it easiest to perform Tortoise Breathing while lying on their backs, but you can also try the technique in a seated position. If you sit, maintain good posture but do not stiffen your body. Inhale through your nose, slowly. Your belly should expand somewhat as you breathe in. Once you have filled your lungs with air, pause for about half a second, then slowly push the air out of your lungs. Your stomach will sink in as you breathe out. Pause once more, then repeat the process, slowly inhaling, pausing and then exhaling.

Beginning Qigong practitioners will usually take about eight breaths per minute. As you continue your practice, your breathing will most likely slow even more. Experienced practitioners take only two to four breaths per minute.


Complete Breathing is a slower technique than Tortoise Breathing. To perform this technique, lie on your back and inhale through your nose. Fill your lungs with air, causing your stomach to expand. Continue to breathe in. Your stomach should flatten while your chest gets bigger. Continue to breathe in and feel the air move up through your body, past your chest, up to your neck. Exhale, pushing the air out from your neck, through your chest and back down to your stomach. The technique should feel like a wave of air moving up and down through your torso.

Circular breathing is another Qigong breathing exercise. Many woodwind musicians make use of circular breathing in order to play a continuous note on their instruments. You do not pause between inhalation and exhalation or between breaths when performing circular breathing. You can breathe in through your nose or your mouth during this exercise. If you choose to breathe through your nose, do not switch to the mouth midway through the exercise or vice versa. Continue to breathe in and out without pausing until you feel enlivened and energized. You may start to get dizzy during it. If you do, slow down or stop the exercise.


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